1966 L 88 PENSKE RACE CAR RE-CREATION
“The Penske Project” December 2018
By Walt Thurn
On October 31, 2018 Mr. Roger Penske was presented with the prestigious “Spirit of Competition Award” from the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum, honoring his accomplishments as a successful racing driver, race team owner and businessman. Mr. Penske retired from being a fulltime racing driver in 1965 and formed Penske Racing that same year. His first race as a team owner was at the 1966, 24 Hours of Daytona. His car of choice was a Rally Red 1966 Corvette Coupe.
The St. Louis Corvette assembly plant built this specially equipped Corvette because Mr. Penske had a close relationship with Corvette Chief Engineer Zora Duntov. His new Corvette was fitted with a prototype 427 CID L88 engine, N03, 36 gallon fuel tank, C48 heater/radio delete, F41 suspension, J56 HD brakes and other competition options. It was picked up at the St. Louis plant by race driver Dick Guldstrand in early January 1966, and driven to co-driver George Wintersteen’s garage near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was race prepared and shipped to Daytona in time for the 24 Hour Daytona race. The #6 Corvette was sponsored by Roger Penske Chevrolet and Sunoco Oil Company. It qualified 1st in the GT+30 liter (engine size) class with a time of 2:10.600. In spite of an early morning accident the Corvette completed 577 laps and finished 1st in class and 12th overall. This finish was 48 laps ahead of the second place class finisher driving a Ford Cobra. The Roger Penske racing team, “The Sunoco Crew” included – to name a few: Jack Freeman, Jack Ziegler, Sam Wooters and Bill Preston were faultless and fast, all for its able drivers, George Wintersteen, Dick Guldstrand and Ben Moore.
Fabulous Restorations is well known for building perfect replicas of significant racing cars including the 1969 Owens Corning L88 Corvette. The original Penske L88 has been restored by Corvette Repair as it raced at the 1966 12 Hours of Sebring. This author, Corvette journalist Walt Thurn, felt that Mr. Penske’s first Rally Red Corvette race car should be replicated as a tribute to his successful racing career. Walt kept pecking away at Fabulous owner George Haddad challenging him to build a replica of Mr. Penske’s first racecar, the #6. More inspiration and encouragement from confidant and mentor Gib Hufstader with a plethora of helpful information from Bill Preston and Corvette Repair owner Kevin Mackay, ultimately convinced George’s Fabulous Team to build another legendary Corvette race car re-creation.
A donor, mid-year Corvette Coup was located in Michigan and is now undergoing a complete, chassis off, bolt-by-bolt restoration. Soon this Corvette will become the 1966 #6 Penske L88 Tanker. It will look exactly like Mr. Penske’s 1966 Corvette Coupe that he and his team raced at Daytona in 1966. It will be presented in its original Rally Red with black interior.
During the building process this Corvette replica is undergoing extensive research to ensure historical correctness. The build will become a tedious endeavor, and locating parts will be a full time job in itself, but Mr. Haddad and his Fabulous Restoration team are determined to find necessary components to complete this build. This Fabulous Race Car Re-creation, The Penske Project, will be unveiled at the Daytona Historic in November 2019, then Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance 2020.